Ellie Rose—A Special Dog with a Special Purpose

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The Books & Barks contest winner of 2015, Ellie Rose, a Bernese mountain dog, and the students she reads to at Peterson Elementary in Naperville, Illinois.A follow up on the Pets Best Books & Barks 2015 winner. By Pets Best, a U.S. pet health insurance agency.

Remember Ellie Rose, the Bernese mountain dog who stole our hearts during last year’s Books & Barks Contest? We’re happy to report that Ellie still pays regular visits to Mrs. Van Dorn’s students and other classrooms throughout Naperville’s Peterson Elementary School. In fact, Ellie has made quite an impression with her big win.

Photo Above: The Books & Barks contest winner of 2015, Ellie Rose, a Bernese mountain dog, and the students she reads to at Peterson Elementary in Naperville, Illinois.”

Shortly after winning our 2015 contest, Peterson Elementary held a school-wide pep assembly for Ellie and her owner and handler Renee Cole. Both pet and owner completed a victory lap through the school hallways as hundreds of students cheered and displayed signs they had made.

“It truly was a spectacle,” Cole recalls. “The students lined up outside their classrooms, and waved, cheered, and handed us lovely pictures and cards they made for her in appreciation. It was incredibly fun, and Ellie was wagging her tail and soaking up the celebration in her honor.”

A local newspaper also featured a story about Ellie, the Books & Barks contest, and the benefits of having therapy dogs in the classroom—benefits that Van Dorn says are far-reaching. “The Books & Barks Contest has raised awareness throughout our community regarding the positive impact of therapy dogs,” says Van Dorn.

“Allowing therapy dogs in the classroom provides students with unique learning opportunities,” she continues. “Ellie provides non-judgmental comfort that assists with building students’ confidence levels.” Cole agrees that even the most timid new readers feel safe and self-assured when reading to Ellie. She, too, has seen the positive impact of dog therapy programs in the classroom.

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“There are many children who don’t have dogs, nor have they even spent time with one. But Ellie teaches them to be brave and kind when visiting with pets,” she says. “Some children may initially be reserved and uncertain about a dog as large and furry as Ellie, but she quickly wins their trust,” explains Cole. “Before too long, they are snuggling with her, holding her leash, and reading aloud to her—which is great practice.”

The kids even write Ellie Rose notes and draw her pictures. “The kids may not know or remember my name, but they absolutely know and recognize Ellie Rose when she is in the school,” says Cole. “She gets met with such enthusiasm… they get so delighted when Ellie wags her tail while listening to a story, or when she puts her paw on their book.”

With its $1,000 in contest winnings, Peterson Elementary School chose to purchase adaptive books for the school library, giving students in the special education department access to a wider variety of resources. Cole donated her $500 winnings to BFW Rescue Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps provide Bernese Mountain Dogs with food, fostering, medical attention, and eventually, forever homes.

Thanks to Ellie Rose and special dogs just like her, owners and trainers like Renee Cole are able to help make an impact in classrooms just like Mrs. Van Dorn’s—and in schools all over the country. “I truly believe the students look forward to having a dog in their classroom,” says Cole. “And I hope they remember the experience for many years to come.”

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